Summary: The disciples didn't stand a chance. Neither do you. But there is hope...
John 17:11-19 The Gospel for Underdogs
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
And so, the odds were completely against them. There was no logical way they could possibly succeed. When you looked at their opponent - the opponent was smarter, stronger. The opponent had been in these kinds of contests before and had won every single time. They were the underdogs.
Can you picture them in the tunnel, getting ready to face the opponent? You always see videos of football teams running through a tunnel out onto a field, or a baseball or basketball team walking through a tunnel under the stadium right before the big game. But I'm not talking about sports. I'm talking about something way bigger.
I'm talking about the Christians, getting ready to face the Devil and face the world. In John chapter 17, the disciples were the underdogs. Today it's you. It's young Christians leaving the shelter of their Christian schools during this month of May. It's each one of us as we take shelter here for a little while here on a Sunday morning, where we enjoy Christian fellowship and ponder God's Word. But then we all have to leave, and face the Devil and face the world. And you are the underdog, or at least it seems that way. The odds are completely stacked against you, just as they were stacked against the disciples.
But there is hope, there is a reason to feel confident and even joyful, and Jesus gives that joy and confidence to us as we look at his words in John chapter 17 this morning.
Before we look at Jesus' words, let's consider the setting. The disciples were like that team in the tunnel, getting ready to go out onto the field. John 17 is Jesus praying for his disciples on Maundy Thursday, the night he is betrayed. Now Jesus is done being their teacher, their coach. Yes, Jesus did tell them that he would be with them, to the very end of the age - but not in a way that they could see anymore. Things were going to be different - "I will remain in the world no longer," Jesus said. No more sermons or Bible classes or parables or miracles with Jesus, right there in front of you, doing all these things - that was all done.
The disciples knew that something was changing - Jesus had been telling them that he was leaving them, and now it seemed liked the time had come. The disciples were concerned, maybe worried, scared, confused, not confident. They knew that the odds were against them, if they were supposed to go out into the world. The world was smarter than they were, and more powerful. And so was the Devil, who was also trying to get them to fail. How in the world could they succeed against the Devil, and the world? How could they even keep their faith, if Jesus was going to leave them? They were the underdogs.
Things haven't changed over the last two thousand years. How in the world are you going to stay a Christian, keep your faith, when you have the Devil scheming, the Bible says, to tempt you and cause you to lose your faith? How in the world are you going to stay a Christian, or even grow in your faith or share your faith, in a world that is becoming more and more hostile to anything Christian? You are the underdog, the modern day disciple of Jesus. Those of you who are parents - do you ever wonder about your children? How are they going to stay in their faith? You've done all you can to teach them. Many of you are parents of students who are in this choir today - you've given them this Christian education - but now it's time - especially for the seniors - it's time for the modern day disciples to leave the shelter that you give them and to face the Devil who is very wise. It's time to face the world, which is very hostile. Will your children keep their faith? Will you? Do you ever worry? Do you ever feel insecure? Or afraid, not confident, like those disciples on the night Jesus spoke these words?